PM Lee, today you spoke of 3 “fundamental strategies there Singapore should rely on: the pursuit of economic growth, an openness to foreigners and the system of meritocracy.”
PM Lee, please allow me to describe the 3 core fundamental principles which I think we should operate on. I don’t represent all Singaporeans. But I think I do represent quite a substantial number.
For far too long, the government gets to set the tone of the national discourse. The principles that the government has brought out framed Singaporeans as not understanding our government and that we should perhaps look at ourselves and learn to do so. You chide us again. But PM Lee, is that the case? Do we truly not understand? Or is the government unwilling to understand us instead? I do not want to sound like a party-pooper. Singapore is on the right track. But I do not think we should not stand for it when the government shapes an agenda that puts out a discourse that positions the government on a pedestal, while the rest of Singapore is seen as childish, mindless selfish people.
PM Lee, you said that we “do not properly appreciate the consequences of a long period of low or no growth.” I don’t think this is what we are asking for – low or no growth. We are not stupid. We know that we are tied to a global economy where we have no choice but grow with it. Like you, we think that “even 2 to 3 per cent growth will be considered good growth”. See, PM Lee, we think like you and your government. So, please do not frame it like we think differently.
Obviously, there’s basis for framing it differently so that it looks like the government cares for Singapore! But the noisy Singaporeans don’t! Shame on you, noisy Singaporeans! But wait, we do. I’ve already mentioned we do think economic growth is important. No one is saying slow down to zero. We are saying slow down to create a balance. I think that’s pretty much what you are saying. So we are on the same page. You say, we cannot have low growth because “low-wage workers will be hardest hit.” I say, our low-wage workers are already being hit hard. Again, we have the same concerns as you do! We asked for minimum wage. For a long time, the government wouldn’t give it to us. After months of rallying in all sorts of way we could plead online, finally, the government introduces a simulation of minimum wage – a progressive wage structure. Fine, whatever works to increase the wages of low-wage workers, then call it what you may – to save face, whatever – as long as we get something done. So, see, we think like you.
Then, you ask, “what could be replace merit as the basis for decisions on jobs or school places?” And you talk about how we should have “equal opportunity and meritocracy.” You talk about meritocracy and equality as if they are one and the same. But Singaporeans are telling you they don’t think it is. We feel that the way the government practices meritocracy is not based on principles of equality. We are streamed according to our academic abilities, which negates the other qualities and abilities that we have. If you are richer, you get to pay more to achieve more, do more and get further ahead. The system isn’t fair, to start with. And this is what we are saying. The government says meritocracy is equality. We are saying, “But cut the crap, we know it isn’t and we know we are being taken for a ride.” We are saying, “What about truly working towards equality and not using meritocracy as an affront for equality?” We are sick and tired of being taken for a ride.
Again, we are saying, don’t you think we know what’s good for Singapore? You say meritocracy which we think only benefits a few. We say we want equality which we think benefits many. Numerically, we aren’t quite getting it wrong, or we? Or, are we mistaken here, because we aren’t the government, so we shouldn’t be setting the tone?
Then, you “acknowledged Singaporeans’ fear of being “swamped” by foreigners and a dilution of national identity.” Wait a minute, hold on there! Are you saying it’s all Singaporeans’ fault that we do not know how to care for Singapore and that we should care enough to understand that we need foreigners? Of course we do! Of course we know we are not having enough sex and babies. Of course we know that it’s so expensive and stressful to raise a child here in Singapore and so we think really hard before we even bring someone else into this life! So, of course we know if we aren’t having enough sex, then someone else has to!
But wait a minute, what about the responsibility that the government should take? Talking about accepting foreigners as just a problem that Singaporeans should learn to deal with, negates the government’s responsibility. The government knows full well why Singaporeans are unhappy with foreigners. The people might not know this but the government knows this – our wages are being repressed and prices of goods and services continue to rise faster than our real wages. If by having an influx of foreigners, our standard of living is compromised, should we not be unhappy? Singaporeans had to get angry.
Of course it’s always easier to position it as Singaporeans being angry at foreigners, even though the real anger is directed towards the government. But you know, foreigners aren’t going to stay here long anyway, and there’s tons of them who want to come here anyway, so why not let’s pitch Singaporeans against the foreigners, so that it takes the attention away from the government? Who controls the media? Who controls the discourse? It’s a matter of whose discourse gets pushed out. And unfortunately, Singaporeans actually really do buy into the idea that we dislike foreigners.
If I’m the government and I want people to not focus on me, I will pitch them against one another. No one will know anything when they are too busy being angry at one another. Smart move, don’t you think?
The real issue with Singaporeans’ displeasure against foreigners isn’t foreigners – it’s a lack of coordination in governmental policies which result in a people who are not able to culturally adapt to one another, where the infrastructure couldn’t keep pace with the increase in the number of people and where wages were repressed and prices increased. These are the real issues which has been conveniently delinked and brushed under the carpet.
Now, let’s shape the discourse, why don’t we? Let’s talk about foreigners – they are the problem. Why, why oh why, Singaporeans, are you angry with foreigners? We shouldn’t be angry at them! We need them. And perhaps, the more I talk about your anger at them, the more it becomes real to you and the more you will forget what the real issues are.
Perhaps some people might think that we are that dumb.
Are you that dumb, Singaporeans?
My dear government, please, please, please, we know what you are doing with the media and we know how you shape discourse. It’s quite infuriating when we see articles written on this which makes it sound like Singaporeans are not smart enough to see the bigger picture, where we can only see that far and think that much. See, if a government doesn’t want its people to think too much and so creates policies which prevents open discourse on some issues, then turns around and claims that its people aren’t thinking broadly enough, it’s quite funny, right? And then, if Singaporeans are told to behave like sheep, and yet are told to be thinking sheep, when sheep aren’t exactly supposed to think – if I understand English idioms correctly – then it’s quite funny, right, don’t you think?
I need help here. Most of us don’t work for The Straits Times, nor do we control them. The Straits Times shapes the national agenda for the government. Who shapes the national agenda for us? Of course we are thinking Singaporeans who knows what needs to be done. I’m putting it out here that we do, and quite clearly, this article shows that we do, in a broad sense. The question, I would like to turn back to my government is this – instead of setting an agenda that’s yours and which frames Singaporeans as perhaps being less able intellectually, why not perhaps look within yourself and ask yourself why you are unwilling to understand us?
Why is my government’s ego so big that it thinks it’s right and we are wrong, that we do not know better? We do not know better that equality will benefit all, that we need more people and that the government should coordinate their policies better to ensure that the people’s rights are protected? You really think we do not know this or is the government not trying to address them?
We aren’t from China. We can’t be shipped back. So, how?
Yes, we have to work together – you and me, not just me alone. Me alone is like wiping my own ass after I shit and wiping your ass after you shit. But no, you wipe your own ass, I wipe mine. But when the least we could do is not to throw shit at one another. So, please, mai kee siao can?